Adventuresome Road-Legal Amphibious Vehicles

amphibious vehicle

Many performance car enthusiasts are also big boating fans. There’s just something about the freedom of zipping along a twisty country road, and towing a water skier behind a boat on a sunny day that generate the same kind of satisfaction. Many motoring fans who enjoy exploring off-the-beaten-path spots can find even more out-of-the-way places by boat. Unfortunately, ideal motoring and boating weather is limited in many locations, forcing owners to make a choice – do we take the car or the boat?

Are amphibious vehicles the answer?

Amphibious vehicles – vehicles that are at home on the road and in the water – are not a new concept. Their development during World War II enabled the transport of soldiers and supplies over roads, as well as across rivers and lakes to locations that were otherwise unreachable. After the war, many surplus military amphibious vehicles were converted to non-military uses serving as tour buses, and for other commercial purposes. Their large size and cumbersome handling were not suitable for private use, however, and they were very costly to operate.

Over the years, smaller amphibians were developed for private use, but saw only limited success. Their designs were uninspiring, often looking like a small boat with wheels, and their performance on both land and water was poor. Certainly, their allure was that they could be driven on both land and water, but, as a practical matter, they weren’t very good as either a car or a boat. Enthusiasts wanting a road vehicle with good performance that could perform just as well on the water were left high and dry.

Amphibious Performance and Off-Road Vehicle from WaterCar Inc.

When it comes to high-speed amphibious vehicles, WaterCar Inc. of Fountain Valley, California is the current Guiness World Record holder for the World’s Fastest Amphibious Vehicle. In 2010, their Corvette-powered Python prototype reached a speed of 127 mph on land and 60 mph on the water. Dave March, WaterCar’s founder, spent 12 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars researching and developing a high-speed amphibious car. The result was the Panther, WaterCar’s first commercially available amphibious vehicle, which launched in 2013.

The Panther is a four-passenger, Jeep-like vehicle powered by a Honda Acura 3.7 liter, V6 VTEC engine producing 305 horsepower. The Panther won’t achieve the speeds of the record-setting Python, but will go fast enough on water to tow water skiers or wakeboarders. Weighing in at about 2950 lbs, the Panther is capable of 55+ mph on land and 44 mph on water. The Panther has a proprietary transfer case for quickly and easily transferring engine power between land transmission and the water jet propulsion system on water.

March recently tested the Panther in open water, successfully piloting the vehicle from Newport Harbor to Catalina Island, a distance of about 30 miles, in one hour and 10 minutes. Champagne with family and friends was the order of the day upon reaching his destination.

CAMI amphibious vehicles

CAMI LLC of Ridgeland, South Carolina specializes in designing and manufacturing original, custom-built amphibious vehicles for both commercial and recreational markets. They currently offer the Hydra Spyder, a four-seat performance car powered by a six-liter Corvette engine. This engine produces 400 horsepower at 6000 rpm, propelling the 3,300 lb. Hydra Spyder to speeds of 125 mph on land and 46 knots in the water. The front wheel drive Spyder has a five-speed manual transmission for land use and is propelled through the water by a water jet propulsion system. The upper body is constructed of lightweight fiberglass, while the lower hull is made from 5052 aluminum alloy.

Another vehicle in the CAMI arsenal is the Terra Wind, a luxurious amphibious first class motor coach. The Terra Wind is built for luxury and comfort, but can reach speeds of up to 80 mph on land and up to 7 knots on the water. Included in the Terra Wind’s cockpit, in addition to full instrumentation for all of the mechanical systems, is an on-board computer docking system with internet access, GPS, moving maps, and navigational charts as standard equipment. The Terra Wind can be custom-designed and tailored to suit individual needs.

Gibbs Biski amphibious motorcycle

We haven’t forgotten about motorcycle fans and neither has Gibbs Amphibians, designers of the Biski. Gibbs Amphibians claims to be the first company to successfully create fully homologated vehicles that can exceed 30 mph on water and achieve typical road speeds on land. Their unique systems allow easy transition between land and water operation at the push of a button.

The Biski is a unique, two-wheeled amphibious vehicle that can reach speeds of about 80 mph on land and 37 mph on the water. With a land/water transition time of less than 5 seconds, the Biski lets you join in the water activities without delay. Power is by a 2-cylinder, 55 horsepower gasoline engine on land, and Gibbs custom dual-jet technology on water. Gibbs Amphibians is a technology company and does not sell any products directly to consumers. Their products are sold through licensees. Interested in your very own Biski? Check the Gibbs website for availability.

Regardless of your preference for a land vehicle, whether it be a performance car, motorcycle, or luxury motor coach, there is now amphibious technology to give any vehicle performance in the water that matches its performance on land. You no longer need to choose between taking a drive in the car or going out in the boat. With an amphibious vehicle, you can go wherever your imagination suggests. Should you happen to come across a lake or a river that looks inviting, just drive right on in and enjoy the water.

 

Sources:

WaterCar Inc. – https://www.watercar.com/index.php

Chicago Tribune – http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-02-26/classified/sc-cons-0220-autocover-water-car-20140220_1_panther-watercar-catalina-island

Orange County Register – http://www.ocregister.com/articles/march-597529-car-water.html

New Atlas – http://newatlas.com/watercar-panther-amphibious-jeep-acura-jet-boat-water-fun/28099/pictures?%09thumb=true#picture4

CAMI LLC – http://camillc.com/index.htm

Gibbs Amphibians Ltd. – http://www.gibbsamphibians.com/

 

Photos by: WaterCar Inc (1), (2), (3),  CAMI LLC (1), (2), (3), (4), and Gibbs Amphibians (1) and (2)

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